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Six Minutes to Freedom
Survey Finds al-Hurra TV Viewed by "Millions" in Syria
March 10, 2005

Text of press release by Virginia-based Middle East Television Network on 10 March

Springfield, Virginia, 10 March: A new ACNielsen survey conducted in Syria shows that millions of viewers are tuning into Al-Hurra Television. Conducted in December and January, just 10 months after the satellite television network with launched, Al-Hurra (Arabic for "The Free One") has a weekly viewership of 39 per cent among all Syrian adults (15 and over) residing in satellite television households. The survey also indicated that Al-Hurra was a source of credible news, with 60 per cent of Al-Hurra viewers stating that the news on Al-Hurra is reliable.

Al-Hurra was not the only US international broadcasting effort to make strides in Syria. The ACNielsen survey concluded that 13 per cent of all adults in Syria listened to Radio Sawa on a weekly basis. This is in spite of the fact that Radio Sawa does not broadcast directly to Syria and can only be heard on transmissions directed to Egypt and Jordan. As with Al-Hurra, Radio Sawa also proved to be a source of credible news for Syrians with 75 per cent of the listeners finding the news to be reliable.

"Right now, more than ever, it is critical that US international broadcasting provide objective and accurate news to the citizens of Syria and this new research shows that Al-Hurra and Radio Sawa are doing just that," stated Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors Middle East Committee. "For the first time in US international broadcasting history we are able to reach a mass audience in Syria."

"Where are those critics who said we could not mass an audience in the Arab world? But what's most important is these young people are hearing about concepts like freedom and democracy," said Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Launched on 14 February 2004, Al-Hurra quickly made a name for itself by broadcasting balanced news and information. Al-Hurra's diverse schedule includes news, talk shows, debates, documentaries and entertaining information programmes on a wide variety of subjects from sports to fashion to technology, which attracts millions of viewers. The 24-hour channel transmits across the region in Arabic and can be seen via Arabsat and Nilesat which reach approximately 120 million satellite viewers in 22 countries.

Six months after the launch of Al-Hurra, ACNielsen conducted surveys in eight countries in the region. Weekly viewing rates among adults residing in satellite TV households ranged from 12 to 33 per cent depending on the country. Al-Hurra has also proven itself to be a credible source of news and information. In all the countries surveyed, between 53 and 81 per cent of Al-Hurra's regular viewers stated that Al-Hurra's news is reliable.

Radio Sawa is one of the most popular stations in the Middle East, broadcasting over 325 newscasts per week - newscasts whose goal is to present accurate and balanced information about events in the Middle East and the world. The station's news, along with its unique mix of the biggest hits in Western and Arabic contemporary music, is listened to millions of Arabic speakers every week all across the region from Sudan to Morocco.

In July and August of 2004, between 25 and 63 per cent of adults in five key countries were tuning in to Radio Sawa on a weekly basis, according to surveys conducted by ACNielsen. News credibility for Radio Sawa ranged from 55 to 86 per cent of Radio Sawa listeners saying the news was reliable. Al-Hurra and Radio Sawa are operated by a non-profit corporation called "The Middle East Television Network, Inc." (MTN).

MTN is financed by the American people through the US Congress. MTN receives this funding through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency. The BBG serves as oversight and as a firewall to protect the professional independence and integrity of the broadcasters.

The ACNielsen surveys for Al-Hurra and Radio Sawa were face-to-face interviews conducted in Arabic [in] December 2004 and early January 2005. Political conditions inside Syria make conducting surveys throughout the country difficult. The sample size was 1,516 adults, 15 years and older. This survey covered urban and semi-urban areas of Syria. There is a 2.5 percent margin of error. Source: Middle East Television Network, Inc. Web site: http://www.alhurra.com
Source: Middle East Television Network press release, Springfield (Virginia), in English 10 Mar 05 (via BBCM via DXLD 5-050)
Al Hurra
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